What is your thinking style?

Every individual has a unique thinking style. This style determines how we interpret the world around us; how we make decisions, solve problems, plan for our future and connect with other people in the world. How can we aim to develop our thinking skills without first knowing where we stand and how we usually think? This kind of self-knowledge and self-awareness is a crucial step in our personal and professional journeys to become better and more wholesome thinkers and leaders.

As part of this Thinking Hour, your assignment is to reflect on your unique style of thinking and find a way to visually present that. There are perhaps as many styles of thinking as the number of people on earth; therefore, it’s not going to help if you are provided with a simplified set of options to choose from. Please be descriptive in your responses. Show what is unique about you, what is familiar about you and what is surprising in your thinking style. Let’s see how Janet described her thinking style in words:

My name is Janet. I am a free thinker by nature. I love to think freely about anything and to come up with any conclusions I want. My thinking doesn’t recognize limitations and doesn’t appreciate boundaries. I am also very attentive to details. I can’t help it. I always pay attention to the little things that differentiates one thing from another. This means that sometimes I miss the bigger picture and the context of what’s going on in my life. The other thing you should know about my thinking is that when it comes to decisions, I can’t make up my mind quickly and easily. It takes me a long time to make decisions. Obviously, I am stuck in the analysis stage. I can’t pick one choice among many others. But when it comes to creativity and innovations, I am the best person you want in your team. I expand the options, I question the status quo and I take it one step further than wherever it was before.

You see, Janet’s description is very helpful to know her better. We can instantly determine where her thinking strengths are and what areas may need some development and help. Writing this paragraph also helped her to articulate her thinking habits and gain more clarity on what is important or challenging for her. Hopefully, this will be a fun and eye-opening Thinking Hour for you too. To help you in this process, you can use the following descriptions and templates to gain a better inner insight about your thinking style.

Detail-Oriented vs. Bigger Picture

Whenever you are thinking about something, do you typically think about a lot of details, calculations, numbers or do you prefer to simplify the picture and look at it from some distance. For example, a detailed oriented person likes to check the itemized calls in a phone bill but a big picture person only looks at the balance and if it’s the same as previous months, doesn’t look any further. In real life, detailed oriented thinkers are better analysts while big picture thinkers are better strategists. Which approach is your typical or predominant tendency?

Pragmatic vs. visionary

These two types are not necessarily at odds with each other. But putting them in one spectrum may help you with this assignment. A pragmatic person bases his or her thoughts on the realities at present and wants to make decisions or offer solutions that are immediately applicable and executable. While a visionary-type person doesn’t care much about the present and is good in imagining what future may look like and shares his or her proposed way to get there. Are you a pragmatic thinker or a visionary?

Absolute vs. relative

Some people think better when the choices are more defined, differences are like black and white, and there is more certainty in the assumptions being made. On the other hand, relative-minded individuals are comfortable thinking in an uncertain frame of mind, with lots of shades of grey and not being sure about the certainty of the options or assumptions. Are you an absolute thinker or a relative thinker?

Inside or outside of the box

An inside the box thinker likes to see his or her options and choose from them. He or she accepts the assumptions and the rules of the game and is quick in coming up with an answer given the reality of the situations or data at hand. An outside of the box thinker doesn’t typically look at the choices at hand. He or she challenges the basic assumptions and proposes solutions or answers not thought of before. As an example, if a few scientists are working on sending an astronaut to the space station to do some repairs and are evaluating the shuttle option versus using a rocket, an outside of the box thinker is thinking about sending a self-repairing robotic module to the orbit. In your life, are you more comfortable with inside the box type of thinking or outside of it?

Areas of thinking

Some people are better in making decisions, some are better with finding solutions and some have a talent in being creative. The areas of thinking are numerous and the majority of people are not consistently strong in all of them. There must be some areas that you might be better at and some areas that we may need some improvement. Think about yours and find out which area(s) you have more strengths in and how you can illustrate that with some examples and stories. Are you known for your wisdom, creativity, quick answers, diplomacy or else?

To end this Thinking Hour with a tangible output, create 1-3 drawings or charts that represent your unique style of thinking and describe them in a couple of sentences. Tell us in the comment box how it went and what you discovered about yourself.